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Book Review: ‘Why Meadow Died’ Will Question Your Faith in Public Education Today

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

Are American public schools safe for kids today?

If you attended public schools, chances are you had some unruly and poorly disciplined classmates who got into all sorts of trouble.

In the past, zero tolerance policies regarding delinquent and troubling behavior were enforced. Problem children were promptly removed from the classroom. This was the case when I attended the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) from K-12. I bet it was the same in your school too.

These policies weren’t perfect, but schools generally felt a lot safer back then. Teachers used to be able to exert greater control in their classrooms. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be the case now. Today, problem students are merely issued warnings or passed over to protect the school’s “spotless” reputation in order to secure more state or federal funding.

That’s what readers will learn in Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created The Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students.

Co-authors Andrew Pollack, Parkland father, and Max Eden, educational expert, determined it was the Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) system and local police department, not the firearm used by the Parkland shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that led to the most preventable mass shooting in U.S. history.

Pollack enlisted help from the following individuals to understand why the Parkland shooter, referred to as “18-1958” in the book, carried out his ghastly act: Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher (and Democrat) Kimberly Krawczyk, Venezuelan immigrant Royer Borges, investigative journalist Kenny Preston, and his co-author Max Eden.

Much of the debate surrounding the horrific Parkland shooting—which left 17 people, including Pollack’s daughter Meadow, dead—focuses on firearms.

A gun control movement, March for Our Lives, was born out of it. Celebrities and politicians—including Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, whose district-wide policies emboldened 18-1958 (the Parkland shooter)—blamed guns to not take responsibility for their misconduct and lax policies.

It’s easy to blame guns when your policies fail to protect students, Pollack and Eden argue.

Throughout the book, Pollack and Eden explain why warning signs about 18-1958 were dismissed, how the school district capitalized on media hits instead of consoling teachers and other Marjory Stoneman Douglas employees following the shooting and why the policies surrounding PROMISE program—which the shooter was referred to but never a part of—led to the Valentine’s Day massacre in 2018.

Why Meadow Died is a comprehensive look into how 18-1958 exhibited many odd behaviors, threatened his peers, and fantasized about killing people and animals—all signs that should have prevented him from owning or possessing firearms. The authors did a great job of putting the pieces together and adding context. They conclude the shooter easily could have been disciplined and removed from school but he wasn’t. Why not?

As a result of his behavioral problems, readers learn, the Parkland killer was put into alternative programs. Not much worked and his behavior got worse when he was mainstreamed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he would later commit that heinous crime.

The PROMISE program, the book notes, got the green light from Obama’s education secretary, Arnie Duncan—who worked with Runcie in the past. They believed the program in Parkland, first launched in 2013, could be implemented nationwide. More from the book:

“Shortly after Runcie launched the PROMISE program, [Arnie] Duncan issued a federal “Dear Colleague Letter” to pressure school districts to follow Runcie’s lead…School administrators across the country were pressured to reduce their discipline numbers and generally reacted in one of two ways: by not enforcing the rules or not recording it when they did,” (38).

A Duncan recommendation, Runcie was selected in 2011 to lead the sixth largest school district in the country. It boasts 270,000 students, 15,000 teachers, 234 schools, and a whopping operating budget of $3.8 billion.

Readers will learn Runcie had never been a teacher or a principal but was chosen nonetheless. Why? Runcie’s brother, James, previously led the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) under Duncan and profited handsomely from his time there—where “there was pervasive fraud and corruption…” (53).

Color. Us. Shocked.

Moreover, blame should be assigned equally to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for failing to act on 18-1958 before the February 14th massacre. Newly-elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) swiftly removed him from the post earlier this year.

Israel’s department received 45 calls about 18-1958 yet failed to respond. All in accordance with the PROMISE program, where law enforcement and the school district entered a “collaborative agreement” on how to handle crimes in school. The gist: do nothing.

Royer Borges, whose son Anthony survived the Parkland shooting, recounts how two men from the Broward Sheriff’s office behaved in an unbecoming manner when visiting his son in the hospital. This incident went like this:

“An officer shook Anthony’s hand, gave Royer a slap on the back, and left. Royer hadn’t seen the other officer take a picture. But the next day, he saw that a photo of his son and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel had gone viral. Royer was furious. He felt his son had been exploited by the police department that hadn’t been able to protect him,” (26).

Pollack and Eden clearly dissected and heavily backed up their accounts well. Mr. Pollack, a Republican and an avowed supporter of President Trump, stated his goal was to be objective and for readers to see the failings of multiple institutions free of a partisan lens. He and Eden succeeded in presenting an objective, well-documented account of the proceedings—unlike many journalists out there who quickly rushed to blame guns.

If you want to preview the book, here’s a great excerpt from the authors in New York Post.

By reading this, one will be able to see administrative failure after failure led to this tragic, senseless event. It’ll make one also question their faith in public schooling altogether and perhaps compel readers to get more involved in their local public schools.

Since Meadow’s death, Pollack used the platform he’s built to advance a mission of school safety. As a result, he started Americans for CLASS (Children’s Lives and School Safety), whose mission is to “design, implement and support programs that foster children’s safety, security and well-being.”

I encourage our readers here at The Resurgent to order a copy of Andrew’s and Max’s book here or below:


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